Damn His Blood, by Peter Moore, Chatto, RRP£16.99, 384 pages
On midsummer’s day 1806, as labourers worked in the fields around the tiny Worcestershire village of Oddingley, the Reverend George Parker was shot at close range, beaten to death and his partly burnt body left where it fell. It was a murder that shocked the country and would take almost 25 years to solve.
Damn His Blood capitalises on the success of Kate Summerscale’s excellent The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2008), which told the story of the birth of modern detective methods through a particularly brutal murder in 1860. Peter Moore’s whodunit predates Whicher but follows a similar trajectory. Using the murder and the feud over the payment of tithes by Oddingley’s farmers, Moore reveals life during this period of upheaval with inflation rife, an invasion by Napoleon feared and rural England on the cusp of change.
Moore tempers his considerable research with passages of beautifully evocative prose that bring a bygone era and a small English village vividly to life.